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The principal advantage of gifted programs is basically putting the nerds in a place where they can socialize with other nerds and face less stigma and develop fewer antisocial Randroid tendencies. Where do you think the principal constituency for Randianism comes from?

standardized tests measure intelligence the way per capita gdp measures income distribution. as in not at all.

As a nerd's nerd (I am an Aspergian),formerly on the board of Québec Conseil des Loisirs Scientifiques ( Québec Council of scientific leisure) and president of the Regional body that organize science fairs ( not a baking soda volcanoes contest but the scouting ground for future scientists) my life experience and career showed me:

Most gifted students are not nerds. They usually are dominant in many pursuits including sports and arts and are socially adept, social skills being very useful to run a lab and navigate the intricacies of the grant process. Their EQ is aa high as their IQ. In the higher levels science competition, it is not uncommon to talk to a high competitor mistakenly thinking he is a judge...
Nerds are not good because they are nerds but despite being it.

The main point of "gifted students schools" is not about giving the gifteds a favourable environment. It is separating our little treasure from the rabble. Meritocracy has little to do with merit and a lot with recreating the hereditary class system.

"high competitor" shoulf have read "high school competitor"

I confess to not having read the original paper (52 pages!) but it looks like there is no control group here. Isn't the appropriate standard for comparison not the expected trend, but the control group, who in this case would have been students above the cutoff but NOT provided with a different education program?

The reason should be all to clear for anyone who has seen a bored student. They could do really well, but that's because they are above the average. It would require effort that is simply mind-numbing; they have little outlet for their capabilities. Were such a scenario to be tested, the title might read "Do Gifted Programs Keep Gifted Students from Failing Out of Sheer Boredom?"

The obsession with 'gifted' is silly. By definition most of us aren't gifted, and anyway the truly gifted will always do well. It strikes me as the academic equivalent of being convinced your kid will play in the NHL and demanding tax payers foot the bill for power skating lessons and summer hockey camp.

With math, teaching matters a lot. There is lots of evidence that gender differences and lousy performance in general is due to culture and deficient teaching methods. So in public schools at the elementary and high school level, I'd rather see an emphasis on getting every student to a minimum level of proficiency without turning them off. The rock stars have all the rest of their lives as PhDs to be rock stars. They won't be hurt by slowing down for a couple of years in high school and filling their spare time by helping their peers with their homework. It's good practice for being a TA and a Prof.

FWIW, having bounced between gifted kid and dumb kid streams in high school (don't ask), my observation is that that it should really be called advantaged kids vs. kids with problems. I'd say the dumb kid classes were almost universally populated by kids from low-income households and households where one or both parents had an addiction problem. Better to put the resources towards lifting-up the disadvantaged kids than to trying to further advantage those who are already ahead of the curve.

Frances, I'm not an education wonk, but you hit the nail on the head with your last line. Education spending--like its bejeweled cousin, health care--is a bourgeois gig. I suspect this is also why we do things like fret about class size, include non-educational curricular items like cultural sensitivity or (in the past) preparation for marriage, and why education is the most unbearably trend-prone profession (brain-based learning, new math, etc., etc.).

Chris S
"The gifted fail out of boredom when they are with the hoi polloi" ( technically no need for the "the" if you speak ancient greek, as we were taught in my distant youth) is a dominant meme in the gifted schools movement.

In the reality-based universe few gifted students fail out of boredom. If the school is teaching below their capabilities they find their own stimulation. Unless they are very badlucky or are destined by their low income neighborhood not to succeed, " Good Will Hunting" Hollywood movie being just that (a movie), the staff and parents will guide them.

School made me skip grade 2. Then in spring of the third-grade I was given an advanced reading program first in the Sister Superior's office, then at home under supervision. Far from being socially isolating, it made me an object of envy in our village... Women would ask mom for her secret education recipe.

Productivity is not meted out evenly. Why wouldn't you want to try to juice the best and the brightest in a broad range of subjects, even at the expense of hurting the feelings of the also-rans?

Students not taking advanced classes because it distracts away from their mainstream grades indicates people are concentrating too much on standard tests. University entrance is much more nuanced than looking at grades, for those who are smart enough to figure it out.

Are gifted education programs ineffective? I don't know, and I suspect that the authors of this paper don't know either. It is difficult merely to pose this question in a meaningful form; and you can hardly expect to answer a question that you can't ask.

But the premise of your post seems far more susceptible to confirmation and quantification. Just how much money is being spent on gifted education that would not in any case be spent? Back when I was in school (the Age of the Great Lizards), the marginal cost of gifted programs was a broadly administered test for admissions and a narrowly administered one upon exit. How large are the new marginal costs and whence do they arise?

Mandos - "The principal advantage of gifted programs is basically putting the nerds in a place where they can socialize with other nerds and face less stigma"

Chris S - "Do Gifted Programs Keep Gifted Students from Failing Out of Sheer Boredom?"

Perhaps we can call this the Big Bang Theory of gifted education - gifted classrooms as safe places for otherwise unhappy nerdy types?

Yes, providing safe places for kids who might otherwise be subject to bullying/social ostracism is a great idea. But is there any evidence that gifted programs actually fulfill this function?

One of the most damning indictments of gifted education in the Bui, Craig and Imberman paper is that there is no improvement in attendance when kids enter the gifted program. If anything, attendance rates fall, but that result isn't particularly robust. And this is consistent with other studies that have found high drop-out rates for gifted education. If gifted programs were succeeding as safe environments for nerdy kids then we wouldn't see those falls in attendance rates.

That's not to say it wouldn't be possible to design special programs to retain nerdy kids, or gay/lesbian kids, or ADHD kids, or other kids who don't fit into the typical classroom. It might even be a good idea to design those kinds of programs. But gifted education and safe-haven-for-nerds education are two different things.

My experience, like that of Jacques René, is that many kids in the gifted program are socially successful/good at everything people - this will be *especially* true when entry into the gifted program requires high across-the-board achievement and positive teacher recommendations, as opposed to special ability in one subject area.

Patrick - "my observation is that that it should really be called advantaged kids vs. kids with problems." Yup, and just about every middle class parent in this country is fighting to get their child away from the kids with problems. Because anyone who teaches knows that just one or two seriously disruptive kids can eat up a huge amount of time, and make a big difference to the overall classroom environment.

Phil Koop: "the marginal cost of gifted programs was a broadly administered test for admissions and a narrowly administered one upon exit. How large are the new marginal costs and whence do they arise?"

- Transportation is a big marginal cost - busing kids to/from gifted programs.

- Smaller class sizes. In my kids' high school one year, the gifted Physics 11 class had just 12 students (with a truly outstanding teacher); the not-gifted Physics 11 class had 24 students (with a not so outstanding teacher). There also may be limits on the number of students who can be enrolled in a gifted class (which, given the absence of disruptive students and the abundance of independent, motivated students, makes absolutely no sense). This was the case when my kids were in school. Smaller classes implies more teachers.

- Misallocation of teaching resources - see example above, with outstanding teacher standing in front of just 12 students.

There are also equity costs - the exclusion of recent immigrants from gifted math classes is the one that really seems Just Not Fair.

But it is *really* hard to actually quantify these costs. In my school district, the "special needs" education budget covers both gifted education and education for students with disabilities - perhaps someone somewhere has the numbers, but I wouldn't count on it.

Here are some reflections from my elementary and secondary school education:

School is very competitive. As Jacques pointed out, high IQ students tend to have high EQ scores. Like most students in gifted/advanced classes, I wanted to perform my best, but with my peers relentlessly trying to "beat me" it wore me down emotionally. I couldn't understand the competitive spirit of students. (Why was it a good thing for someone to score better than me, but a disappointment to that same student to score lower than me, even if that lower score was still a very strong result?) So instead of wanting to perform at my best, I felt it was necessary to regress to not stand-out as much in order to shed the "nerd" label and not be regarded as the benchmark.

Not all talented/gifted people want to be in the spotlight and be recognized as gifted. Some just want to challenge themselves and contribute positively to the world in whatever way their abilities allow.


I am also president of our regional Autism society and on the board of the Québec Federation ( in the republic of the Kenners, Aspergers are president)


Sheldon is one the best depiction I ever saw of a high-number Asperger ( surely more than 40 on the Baron-Cohen scale).

He also would never have finished his Ph.D., probably not even high-school. Whatever the gifted treatment he would have gotten.

12 students, wow! Back in my day, the "gifted" class had 30+ students, same as every other class.

There was not this implacable Darwinian struggle to "win" the grades contest that you describe, just ordinary adolescent vanity. It was more about being the first to figure out the right answer in class than getting the highest score on a test. Only the grades 5-8 "gifted" program had an admission bar. The "advanced" versions of high school courses were elective (no doubt within discretionary bounds that were concealed from me) and they were all worth taking; you learned a lot more, and there didn't seem to be a big grading penalty.

I'm not particularly convinced of the efficacy of these programs either.

One thought I had, though, is how much time do the regular classes teach 'to the test' compared to gifted classes? This could explain the difference.

perhaps programs take for granted the intelligence of the people they serve do not compete well against programs that focus exclusively on teaching to a test.

oh sorry, i didn't finish reading the comments, and there in fact was mike moffat ahead of me.

but -- and sorry for asking this after filling up your comments with nonsense above -- wouldn't g&t programs teach MORE material than other programs? students would get farther along, and that wouldn't be taken into account at all in the comparison?

Phil: "The "advanced" versions of high school courses were elective" This is not the case in Ottawa, where I live - I don't know if there are programs like that elsewhere in Canada.

Mike, adjacent/q - Teaching to a broad-based test, like the Stanford achievement test, the one used in this study, is easily under-rated. Students who've learned how to do well in a standardized test have, at least, learned something. And it's not that easy to boost students' scores in a standardized test *without* teaching them something.

A few questions/comments. And I'll say off the bat that my daughter is in a gifted program, which I make some observations about below.

First, I think you need to be clear about how you measure giftedness. Is it IQ or existing academic achievement or some combination of both? In Alberta the emphasis is on the former, but I think in other places academic achievement is weighed in more significantly. Second, does the gifted program exclude kids with other learning needs? In Alberta, a number of kids in the gifted classes are double coded - i.e., they are both gifted and learning disabled in some way. Third, what kind of gifted program is it? Is it one that emphasizes vertical integration - getting through the curriculum faster and continuing past grade level - or is it based on horizontal integration - staying at grade level but allowing for, e.g., more inquiry based learning. Fourth, what other educational alternatives are available - e.g., charter schools, french immersion etc. This is relevant because it may affect the nature of the children in the gifted program. Fifth, how integrated is the gifted program with the rest of the school - what classes are taken together, e.g.?

I also would be much more interested in long term achievement than in achievement in a standardized test at year's end. I don't see the standardized test as all that useful, particularly depending on the answers given to the questions just noted - i.e., the type of integration.

As a matter of public policy, once you go the Alberta route, and you have secular schools, catholic schools, charter schools, private schools receiving significant public funds, special programs offered within the public schools, competition between school districts and so on, it seems to me that you might as well offer a "gifted" program as well, since it is likely to be a good fit for some kids. Truthfully, though, I wish an option here was your basic neighborhood public school which all the local kids attended. But that train left the station a long time ago - on my street not one child goes to the local public school (and are at all manner of alternatives).

Anecdotally, the kids in the public school gifted program my daughter attends do not fit the model you're describing here, of ambitious upper middle class kids pushing for a "leg up". While some do, many are from immigrant families and most live in the suburbs. That may be, though, because along with the private schools there is a gifted charter school (and a girls charter school and a science charter school and an arts charter school...) and that is where the upper middle class kids attend, and so its only the kids whose parents aren't so aggressive who access the program in the public school.

Is it worth it? I don't know. My daughter isn't miserable, which is an improvement over my elementary school experience. I don't know that she's learning much more than she would otherwise, and I have no idea how she'd do in a standardized test.

Speaking for a specific situation (I do not know how general it is) but in my school district funding for "Gifted" is far out weighed by funding for students needing extra help. I think we have a ratio of about 1 to 42 but it is probably more. Certainly there are not that many resources put into our "Gifted" students.

Our advanced courses (we are an IB school) are open to anyone willing to work hard. I have students that just get by as well as students that are amazing in those courses. I think the difference is that in the advanced courses teachers can expand what they cover compared to the regualar courses. Remember that teacher usually teach to the middle of the class. In the advanced courses I can discuss topics that I usually would not have time to cover in a regular class since I would have to spend too much time teaching the background skills first.

As far as number are concerned our advanced courses are of average class size (about 30) usually there are only a few officially recognized "Gifted" students in each advance course.

Frances: Here's a slightly different take on your third proposal:  really gifted kids are disproportionately more likely to find the math curriculum pointless and boring and therefore become annoying or disruptive, challenge the teachers authority, fail to do homework and generally under perform for their skill level.

I'm pretty good at math, and always scored high on standardized final exams, but engaged in all of those negative behaviours especially in early high school, which likely explains why I was never in the advanced math stream. I don't think I am alone.

The maths dip looks like measurement error on the maths test for giftedness leading to "regression to the mean" i.e. because the giftedness test wasn't accurate enough some less than gifted slipped into the gifted program and some more gifted missed out e.g. some kids had luck getting the right questions or making the right guesses. It means when they are measured again the low gifted are likely to score lower (because last time they over achieved) and the high non-gifted scored higher than last time (because last time they under achieved). And you can see that in the graph - the kids situated around the maths cut-off are scoring similarly.

It also fits with the lagged result not showing the dip - in the lagged test there would also be mixing of the scores from the "non-gifted highs" and the "gifted lows".

I don't think it says anything aboout the gifted program more that they need a better (or more) tests to identify talent at the cusp for maths.

(And it all pre-supposes that both groups (gifted and non-gifted) are getting the same instruction necessary to perform on the Sanford test.)

Are gifted programs intended to increase the gap in standardized test scores between the group of students labelled as gifted and the rest of the student population? Why would anyone think they were?

In any ethical education system, each student is in an environment that will allow him or her to achieve as much of his or her potential as is possible. The evidence (such as it is) suggests that for the borderline students, they do just pretty much the same in either the gifted or non-gifted environment. This is exactly the outcome we would expect if the educational system was working as it should. Note that this is also indistinguishable from what we would expect to observe if the education system had no effect whatsoever on test scores.

Also, the suggestions that "wads" of money are spent on gifted education is just plain wrong. Perhaps Prof. Woolley could take the trouble to present some data.

Everyone makes some good points. I was in a gifted program during elementary school. It wasn't full time, just a couple hours, twice a week, a small group of us would get pulled out of our normal classes. Much the same way as the weak readers would get pulled out periodically for remedial work. This didn't carry on through junior high and high school, where the limited choice of schools for gifted students made it impractical to attend.

Jaques: I might suggest your experience of being an object of envy may be unusual. Or rather, it's probably quite normal for other parents to envy your parents, but my experience has been that being at the top of the class results in other children beating you up. Thus, though my time in a gifted program also showed that almost everyone had excellent social skills to match their academic skills, there was still an advantage to that time separated from the "normal" students. It was an environment where being smart was okay, quite different from my other class time.

I'm also of the opinion that a major advantage to gifted programs not studied here is the advantage gifted graduates experience in post-secondary education. Having spent junior high and high school in the regular program, I felt I was not prepared for the rigours of university. I had learned, through years of practice, that I could be near - often at - the top of my class without actually doing any work. Adjusting to classes that demanded an actual work ethic didn't come easily, and to be honest, I didn't really get it until I spent a few years in the work force. As a result, I did quite poorly at my first attempt to get a degree, and didn't complete it. I'm still working on my second attempt, but homework is much less of a foreign concept than it was the first time around, and my grades certainly reflect that.

I feel that sticking to a gifted program would have allowed me to develop a work ethic while I was still in school, and I might have saved a few years of my life along the way.

Are the benefits to society enough to justify spending extra on gifted education? I don't know. It's probably true that gifted students will excel in the end no matter what we do to them. But there are no doubt advantages, and I think it deserves more study than comparing standardised tests.

"my experience has been that being at the top of the class results in other children beating you up"

Yup. Sounds familiar. Personally, I got in a lot of trouble for fighting - mostly with older kids because I was too big and athletic for the kids my own age (they outsourced it to their older siblings & cousins). The joys of small town life. The schools hadn't clued into bullying then. They seem to do a somewhat better job these days.

I wonder how many kids identify - somewhat unconsciously - that being obviously smart is just asking to be bullied and so purposefully avoid it to better fit in.

Incentives matter, right?

"Who does better on the grade 6 and 7 standardized tests, the students who just made it into the gifted program, or the ones who fell just below the gifted threshold?"

Oh, good grief! Sorry to be snide, but that question makes me think that the authors are not in the gifted group.

For one thing, if the purpose of the gifted program is to help gifted students do better on standardized tests aimed at students their age or one year higher, then what is the point? (For that matter, is it to help them to do better on standardized tests at all?)

Remember that the original idea of an IQ of 100 was a "mental age" of 13. If standardized tests are the right instruments, shouldn't they be those for 10th or 11th grade? 6th or 7th grade tests are not likely to be sensitive enough.

But as I have indicated above, I doubt if the value for "gifted" students of the program lies in the standardized test scores. Other measures might be developed.

My guess is that the main benefit of a gifted program could be for the "non-gifted" students, who might get more attention and help when students who would otherwise dominate class discussion are elsewhere. In terms of individual students, the main beneficiaries of a gifted program might be the students who almost made the cut, as they would become class stars instead of being in the second tier.

OTOH, teachers of the "non-gifted" students might have low expectations of them, with deleterious effects.

Given that I have spent most of my life either enrolled in or teaching in accelerated math programs, this topic hits very close to home for me.

There is a great deal of truth that has been presented in this discussion. It is entirely true that individual programs have variable, often sub-optimal, ways of selecting "gifted" students. I completely agree with Frances that the "gifted" label is overly vague for many of the situations in which it is applied. I say that both as someone who was denied an opportunity to move ahead in math simply because my writing skills were not advanced enough and as someone who has watched as educators jam square students into round holes of intellectual aptitude.

I believe that the greatest weakness of most educational systems is their overwhelming tendency to stereotype students. The simplistic "gifted," "average," "dumb" trichotomy is a primary example of that weakness. However, I do not mean to imply that students should all be lumped together all the time. The optimal sorting process is not at all obvious to me.

To return to the original data puzzle that Frances presented, I would like to point out the potential for time-sensitive effects. Importantly, advanced programs do not teach the same materials at the same time as non-advanced programs. That is important in this case because a student's ability in any topic will vary in a non-linear manner over time. More specifically, a students ability to solve a given type of problem will rise as he or she learns the relevant skills and will frequently fall somewhat after he or she moves onto a later lesson. That is particularly true when consecutive lessons are not obviously connected. For example, a student who learned long division the week before a long division test will generally get a better grade than one who studied that material 3 months before the test. Something along those lines could be at play in the example given above. It makes sense to assume that the school year for most classes would be planned in such a way as to maximize test scores. If the advanced courses move through the material at a different rate and end up studying material that isn't even covered on the test, it would make sense that their human capital, as measured by the test, would depreciate noticeably by the time the test is given. Importantly, that depreciation would likely have no negative effects on the gifted students' long term educational outcomes.

Overall, I would say that this is the tip of an iceberg that is really worth exploring.

I think one problem is that gifted programs mean completely different things in different areas, making comparisons almost impossible. In Toronto, I am used to a gifted program being most relevant in elementary school, and it being open only to those who are academically talented but not likely to thrive in a conventional class. i.e teachers talk about a child being "severely gifted", meaning heavily Asperger's, etc.

Under that classification, these kids are probably "at risk", and you would expect to find higher drop-out rates, etc.

Of course, by labelling them gifted programs, there's always intense pressure by parents to simply turn them into a class for high achievers. In this case, the use of euphemism is dangerous to the program's purpose.

A number of commentators have questioned the validity of standardized tests as a measure of student success.

Meghan's point that "if everyone was being educated optimally there shouldn't be a jump at the gifted boundary" is an interesting one.

On the "is there sufficient variation to pick up the abilities of gifted students?" question - the authors talk about this issue, and argue that there is.

On the "maximizing test scores/teaching to the test" objection - it really isn't that easy to game students' standardized test scores by teaching to the test. The much easier way of gaming test scores is by gaming the test, i.e. making it easier. This is why a number of states are developing their own, in-house standardized tests - and as a result of this change in policy, states like Lousiana are achieving outstanding success rates in their standardized tests.

On the "the pay-back to gifted education happens later, in post-secondary education and in the workforce, as a result of better work habits/increased thinking power/greater confidence..." Yesterday I found a study that suggested that, even though students in gifted programs didn't experience a jump in standardized test scores, they were more likely to go on to post-secondary education/something else. Unfortunately I can't find that study today.

Let me the real problem with this post - and why I'm slightly regretting going over the top about great wads of resources etc - things like gifted programs are one way of getting middle-class support for public education. A recent NBER working paper argued that gifted programs increased the retention rate of students in the public school system. When Arnold Kling picked up this post, he argued:

Either you believe your bright kids should experience going to class with students who are not so bright, or you don't. If you don't, then pay for private school. G&T allows you to send your kids to private school while claiming they are still in public school.

If ending gifted programs resulted in a substantial weakening/erosion of the public school system/greater support for vouchers, tax deductions for private education etc, would I be so critical of it? Probably not.

Thanks for all of the comments, especially for everyone who's shared their experiences about school - several of which really resonated with me.

Blikktheterrible - interesting thoughts. I actually find the whole JUMP math thing really frightening, I mean, it's great that John Mighton has found a way to improve math scores, but it's horrible to think that it's so easy to get really dramatic improvements in math outcomes. How badly were we teaching math before?

A recent NBER working paper argued that gifted programs increased the retention rate of students in the public school system.

Here we have an example of how using US research to reach conclusions about Canadian educational policies just isn't a good idea. In English Canada it is French immersion that is used to help maintain "middle-class support for public education". I look forward to reading a column wondering whether French immersion programs are a waste of money!

i mact - your wish is my command: http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2010/09/its-like-having-a-private-education-within-the-public-school-system.html

Just an anecdote, I know, but probably germane.

In my school board, Ontario, the gifted programs are funded by a Special Education block grant from the province, of which they are a small part.

At a dinner party many years ago, I asked the Supervisor of Special Education about the gifted programs he supervised. Somewhat cynically, he said that the gifted classes are not for the students but for their parents. In his opinion money going to students performing very poorly was money well spent. Money going to the gifted program merely placated a group of parents whose uninformed agitation otherwise made the Special Education program very hard to run. Children were selected for the gifted program according to who were their parents.

Gifted education, as mentioned above, does maintain the class system, with class measured along a somewhat unusual dimension.

On social isolation and bullying:

A lot of work has been done in the U.S. about the "acting white" problem in African-American schools. From what I read, it is only in very poor and already isolated schools that the best-performing students are harassed under that motive. And the reason seems not that these students are better but because they will leave the community and so are seen as captains who abandon ship. The resentment is not about them being good but about them not using their talents where they are ( it is of course impossible to be a quantum physicist in the South Bronx but that only proves the point...). Those students leaving represent a brain drain that prevents the community from developping.

Last year, coming back from the Québec Expo-Sciences ,my all-girls team and all-women staff had long conversations during the 12-hour ride.
My winner, as pretty and socially poised as she is intelligent and technically proficient ( good genes coming in a package) recounted how she and 4 other girl stars at their big high-school were treated by the others. At lunch, they all sit together at the same table. At the four surrounding tables, a dozen boys, good but not stars, takes position in what the girls call a protective circle. None of them dare approach further. Once, she asked one of them, who obviously fancied her, why he ( or his buddies) never made a move and ask the girls out. The boy answered that " Serves nothing. You will leave for a better university anyway and meet someone like you." ( They are already well aware of assortative mating). Depending on your income level,social skills and desperation, you might shun ( in friendship as in puppy love) or resort to bullying.

Children were selected for the gifted program according to who were their parents.

Not in my (limited) experience. It was a variant of a special needs class.

I remember talking with a teacher about one poor girl who was smart, pretty and popular who did manage to get placed in the class by her parents' insistence in grade 2 or 3. She was totally appalled at the complete absence of a social hierarchy, and then miserable when she was unable to build one with the materials at hand. Even the other girls kept ignoring her commands about who to play with and the boys were simply clueless.

However, this one case was pretty clearly an outlier.

As i said, I suspect there's enormous differences between individual programs.

Tom: make it 17 and 18 year olds instead of 7 and 8 and that's pretty good material for a movie script!

Interestingly, in New York, girls are more likely to be identified as gifted than boys:

The NY Times speculates that this might be due to gifted-screening programs that weight language/verbal/social abilities more heavily than math abilities.

If the same is true in LUSD-SW, that might explain some of the math results.

It is unfortunate the Globe article has a generic title “Are gifted education programs a waste of money?” for what turns out to be a very specific study. And unfortunately, Ms. Woolley points out “The authors study a large urban school district in the American south west - “LUSD-SW” - with a gifted program similar to that found in many Canadian school districts.” – yet there are few, actually probably no, gifted programs in Canada that resemble the one in the study. This is a great disservice to the advocacy done on behalf of the gifted students in Canada - students whose needs are not being met in the regular classroom.

For background – it is important to note the provision of educational services in Canada comes under the mandate of the provincial governments. In Ontario, intellectual giftedness is recognized as a special education exceptionality and is defined as “An unusually advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided in the regular school program to satisfy the level of educational potential indicated.”

(See page A20 for the definition.)

It is a requirement for Ontario school boards under the Education Act to provide programming for these intellectual gifted students, and it is left to the school boards to use the given definition to determine who the students are that fit the category of giftedness.

(For more on special Education in Ontario.)

The programs and practices around giftedness vary greatly among the school boards in Ontario. Some school boards have no identified gifted students, and some 35% of school boards do not actively search for gifted students in their school population. For more see a recent report from ABC Ontario “A Look at Gifted Education Across Ontario”.


The most common practice in Ontario school boards is to identify a student as gifted if they are assessed at above the 98th percentile for FSIQ (some use GAI) on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV (WISC-IV) – testing administered by a psychologist.

Special Education in Ontario is funded in Ontario through a protected grant to the school boards, which must be spent on Special Education. Though wads of resources are provided to school boards for Special Education, none of it is targeted directly towards gifted students. The only portion of the Special Education Grant that applies to a gifted student (assuming the student does not have other exceptionalities that require support, assistive technology for example) is the Special Education Per Pupil Amount (SEPPA) Allocation. This allocation is provided to school boards on the basis of total enrolment – essentially if a school board has x overall students, a percentage of x are expected to need Special Education services. The school board does what they want with the money, provided it is spent on Special Education. And if one looks closely at school board budgets across Ontario, you will see that very little of the Special Education funding is spent on gifted students.

(See this document for a detailed overview of how money is granted to the school boards from the Ontario government.)

Marc -"yet there are few, actually probably no, gifted programs in Canada that resemble the one in the study" - no programs that identify children at grade 5 or thereabouts on the basis of some mix of standardized tests, course grades and teacher recommendations and then place some students in enriched programs? Seriously?

Can you, or any of those links cited in your post, tell me:

- how much money is spent on gifted education (as opposed to special education) in Ontario?
- the gender/ethnic breakdown of children identified as gifted?
- the eligibility of recent immigrant children for gifted programming?
- about *any* studies that attempt a rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of gifted education in Canada?

The Bui, Craig and Imberman study actually was able to look at a randomized process - in a lottery for admission into a gifted magnet school, some won; some didn't. Except in science, there was no difference in the achievement outcomes - although there were differences in the educational resources spent. (By the way, Scott Imberman tells me this wasn't at all what they were looking to find - he's not at all opposed to the idea of gifted education).

Other than some excellent work by Jane Friesen looking at French immersion lotteries, and other excellent work by Shelley Phipps comparing Canada and US outcome measures using the National Longitudinal Survey of children of Youth, I know of nothing comparable in Canada.

Can you point me to any serious scientific study of the effectiveness of gifted education in Canada - one that uses a good sized sample and a somewhat objective measure of outcomes?


Well yes, Gifted and Talented programs for high achievers are much different than Gifted programs based on cognitive ability testing.

"Can you, or any of those links cited in your post, tell me:"

"- how much money is spent on gifted education (as opposed to special education) in Ontario?"

That can be teased out by looking at each school board's budget - not an easy task though.

If we look at the public school board in Ottawa (Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)) and their proposed budget for 2011/2012, they forecast the SEPPA to be $45,952,032.00. The total Special Education revenue is reported as $83.5M with the other allocations added. The school board predicts it will receive a total of $780.3M with which to operate in 2011/2012.

(The OCDSB proposed budget for 2011/2011 – currently under review.)

The OCDSB happens to have one of the largest gifted programs in Canada -approximately 2500 students (elementary and secondary) identified as gifted, with a total enrolment of 73,000 – around 3.4% identified as gifted. Students must be assessed at above the 98th percentile for FSIQ on the WISC-IV. Ottawa obviously does not have a matching demographic to that used to normalize the WISC. Of the elementary students identified as gifted, 681 are in specialized classes, a total of 31 classrooms (6 of those classes are for grades 1 to 4 – 112 students - assessed as above the 99.6th percentile.)

Unfortunately there is no line in the budget to say this is how much the gifted program costs - but if one is willing to look at the overall funding formula and take the time to understand how the program is delivered, you will note gifted programming is very cheap. The class sizes are the same as the regular classroom, the teachers are the same (there is no special PD for the teachers), the facilities the same, but there is some additional transportation cost and some overhead to manage the admin. Why would parents want their kids in these classes if the board isn't investing in them? Because the regular classroom does not meet the needs of all gifted students. And if the gifted class still doesn't meet these students academic needs, for many it begins to meet their social and emotional needs.

"- the gender/ethnic breakdown of children identified as gifted?"

I don't know anywhere that you can get an ethnic breakdown, however the gender breakdown is data that is contained in the Ministry of Education's Ontario School Information System (OnSIS) data. If you ask the Ministry's statistics office you may be able to get the numbers.

"- the eligibility of recent immigrant children for gifted programming?"

This is recognized area of concern ABC Ottawa regularly helps parents with. It is not surprising if a significant percentage of children of new immigrants are intellectually gifted. The federal government's new immigrant policy has education level as a primary criteria, Canada readily seeks out the brightest from other nations - yet the provincial governments do little to provide adequate services for these new immigrants children.

"Highly educated immigrants

Since 1991, educational attainment has increased across the board. The proportion of native-born Canadians with a university degree rose from 16% for men and 13% for women in 1991 to 19% and 23% in 2006 (Chart B). Among recent immigrants, the increase was much larger. In 2006, 58% of recent male immigrants and 49% of recent female immigrants had at least a bachelor's degree. The increase for immigrants who arrived 11 to 15 years ago was comparable to the increase for native-born Canadians. In 2006, the former had a slightly higher proportion with university degrees: around 28% of men and women."

There are other factors that affect equity of access to the OCDSB gifted program - the cost for psychological assessments is off-loaded to the parents. Not all parents know or can afford to go the route of getting a private assessment for their child. The OCDSB does have a group screening tool (Canadian Cognitive Ability Test (CCAT)) available for those students who do not have private assessments. However the tool is not as effective as a private assessment, and often is only available by teacher recommendation. The OCDSB used to screened all students in Grade 3 (for giftedness and learning disabilities) using the CCAT - but discontinued board-wide screening in 2007 to save a little money on the budget.

(Here is info about the CCAT.)

"- about *any* studies that attempt a rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of gifted education in Canada?"

I wish there was. But what would you consider a benchmark to qualify effectiveness? More PhD's, reduced suicides, better marriages ...

no programs that identify children at grade 5 or thereabouts on the basis of some mix of standardized tests, course grades and teacher recommendations and then place some students in enriched programs? Seriously?

Can you name any?

I understand you feel strongly about this, but I get the feeling that you believe there's a big secret streaming project sucking resources from the regular system. If so, I'd like to know what it is.

Otherwise you seem to attacking a special needs program simply because the nature of the student's needs differ from the majority of special needs children. (i.e. the US GATE program doesn't really resemble the Ontario program)

Can you point me to any serious scientific study of the effectiveness of gifted education in Canada

Um, can you point to a serious scientific study of the effectiveness of *any* educational policy in Canada? Unless things have greatly changed since I was involved in education, hard numbers on anything are almost unknown.

" I actually find the whole JUMP math thing really frightening, I mean, it's great that John Mighton has found a way to improve math scores, but it's horrible to think that it's so easy to get really dramatic improvements in math outcomes. How badly were we teaching math before?"-Frances Woolley

I think we will eventually find that people are usually shockingly suboptimal in most professions (not economics, though). I once attended a lecture by Dr. Scott O. Lilienfeld (Emory University Psych department) that dealt largely with "cognitive failure", including ones that specifically affect how we (fail to) determine how well we are doing our jobs. He discussed research indicating that psychotherapists do not get better at their jobs over time. Essentially, there appear to be very few tasks for which direct experience provides strong constructive feedback.

That was a few years ago, so I don't have citations handy, but I would bet that Dr. Lilienfeld would be helpful. His work is really interesting. Otherwise, I will look around.

Tom: "Um, can you point to a serious scientific study of the effectiveness of *any* educational policy in Canada?" - well, the are the studies of Jump that mentioned in the post which basically find that there is massive potential for improvement in math education. If you go to scholar.google.com and type Krauth Friesen you'll find a number of excellent studies on various aspects of education policy. I've written also about French immersion education, but here again more research is sorely needed.

I agree that these programs are not large - but anyone who has been involved with school councils will know that they have a vocal constituency.

Indeed the larger point raised by your post is the most important one: the dearth of knowledge about what works in education (though some of these gaps are starting to be filled).

Blikktheterrible - I've heard that, too. Someone posted on the blog a few weeks ago about how "everyone in every job gets annual performance appraisals" and I just had to laugh - one colleague of mine went several years without realizing that classes officially start at 35 or 5 minutes past the hour, instead of on the hour as written in the schedule - no one ever told him. Citations would be great.

but anyone who has been involved with school councils will know that they have a vocal constituency.

I bet! If they are constituted the way they are legally (in Ontario) *supposed* to be, they are not simply enriched classes, they exist in order to stop otherwise academically exceptional students from dropping out or collapsing, making appropriate classroom accommodations are needed, etc. In which case, if my child was enrolled in a such a program, I'd be fighting tooth and nail to preserve it!

Now I can't say whether this is how most gifted programs are actually run. But I'd want to very certain of what exactly I was attacking before I made the accusation "Hell hath no fury like the middle class in defence of its privileges". While true, I don't consider getting special ed for students that need it to be a 'privilege'.

(And as might be obvious, I have a personal view on this. My son's academic career was rescued not by a gifted program, but by a school willing to recognize that just because he was bright, it didn't mean he didn't need help, and it spent time and resources to give him the help he needed. I credit the principal and teachers' efforts for making my son's future success possible. However, it was made clear that the normal remediation for potential difficulties would not work for my son (or as one teacher put it when the Vice Principal suggested it, "Are you kidding, he'd get eaten alive!"). Gifted programs such as the ones in Ontario mean that help for such students do not have to depend on the heroic efforts of individual principals and teachers to recognize and address these students' needs.)

So obviously, I'm a bit touchy about this :-). Defending my privileges!

Tom - do you remember Bill Vander Zalm's critique of the Meech Lake accord - something along the lines of "BC's a distinct society too."

And I think this gets the heart of the issue.

It's heart-rending to see young, bright, full-of-life kids going over into darkness - drugs, cutting, depression, apathy. Curious minds shut down, turned off, dropping out.

You've seen what happens to gifted kids. I've seen what happens to other kids. Anyone can have problems.

What frustrates me - and I do think that Ottawa may be worse than other places (Calgary, Vancouver) in this regard - is that our public school system has pockets of excellence, a lot of perfectly adequate teaching, and a few black holes of truly horrendous instruction.

The public system in Ottawa -and as many people have pointed out, other parts of the country have different school systems - a non-French, non-Catholic, non-gifted child has a right to attend just one school: the local school. If the teacher at the local school is horrendous, that's too bad.

If you're French, you can choose between the French public and the English public board. If you're Catholic, you can choose between the Separate and the Public board (non-Catholic students may attend Catholic schools, but I'm talking about instructional *rights* here). If you're gifted, you can choose between the gifted and the typical classroom.

People who can move will vote with their feet, and take their kids away from bad teachers. Bad teachers are rarely fired -it's like the university in that way. So some kids *have* to be assigned to the bad teachers. Inevitably, it's the kids who are least mobile, because any other kids would move out of the bad teacher's class.

And this is what gets to me about the gifted program - some kids are privileged over others. And, yes, some kids really benefit from those privileges. But so would others.

I would have far fewer problems with some of the educational options outlined by other writers - e.g. advanced classes at the high school level open to all interested students - than with an educational system that gives some students options and choices that others do not have.

I understand where you are coming from. But would the same objection apply to special education classes for those whose academic success were threatened by behavioral issues? Or those who with physical handicaps? Both groups are given other classroom options as well.

In general I assume the system *tries* to work on an 'each according to his needs' plan, which does privilege those with *identifiable* special needs. (And yes, just like a hospital will not take you as a patient if you don't have an identifiable medical difficulty, you cannot get this extra privilege without being identified as having special needs.) If you fall into the middle, not having anything the school feels they can address, even if in the end you might benefit from the extra resources, you *are* out of luck. The extra resources (usually ed aides and psychologists rather than extra school trips!) are there because they figure it will make a difference to an identified need.

Do the extra resources actually make a difference? Probably never measured. But from an anecdotal point of view, it certainly made a world of difference to my son.

(Again, I do agree that a gifted program that has essentially become just an enriched program has no business in the special education budget - I also agree that where possible, courses should be offered in a variety of difficulties as part of the general curriculum. Many years ago, Ontario used to have an 'enriched' and 'basic' version of pretty much each course in addition to the regular version, although I believe they gave that up when it was decided the social costs to the students were higher than the academic benefits.)

Anyway, I've said as much as I usefully can, so I'll leave my defense at that.

Well obviously if it doesn't increase standardized test scores, it's useless! There is nothing else to a student besides his or her test score: behavior, emotional health, none of these things matter one bit, obviously.

One point that hasn't been made in this discussion, which I think is relevant (and, interestingly, I think you've posted on in the past Frances), is the role of gifted programs in helping boys. In Calgary the GATE (gifted and talented program) is overwhelmingly dominated by boys. In my daughter's class of 18 there are 3 girls. That suggests to me that this isn't just about a middle class privilege protection, at least here. If it was, I can't believe the gender would be so skewed, or that it would be skewed towards the group that - and there are lots of studies on this - is doing less well in school generally. My understanding is that the boys who end up in GATE are often kids who have been identified as struggling in the typical classroom, and that the girls don't get identified in part because girls are less extreme on the IQ scale (in my son's autistic school it's mostly boys too!!) but also in part because girls do better at adapting to a classroom in which they don't fit well. In other words, the boys are in the program because they need to be to thrive/cope/survive. If so, then I think categorizing this as special ed makes a lot more sense.

Alice - this is why the method of screening is so important. The ever authoritative NY Times reports


that in NY, girls are more likely to be identified as gifted than boys. As you say, that is less likely to happen with admission based on IQ testing, but then there's all of these other issues with IQ tests, e.g. issue of racial bias etc. There's a strange paradox here - two comments up Mary is making sarcastic comments about the usefulness of test scores, while at the same time the whole premise of gifted programs is that ability can be identified using test scores!

Another question is whether or not the test adjusts for maturity - i.e. is the gifted cut-off for a Jan child the same as the gifted cut-off for a Dec child? Are parents allowed to submit results of private tests, i.e. test the child until the right answer is obtained? (sort of like law school admissions ;-) )

Mary - this whole debate is becoming very reminiscent of debates about health care. Annual mammograms starting at age 40? It has to be a good idea, because it will save lives, won't it? Well, not necessarily. The cost per life saved is high, especially once one factors in the health risk of exposure to radiation for women in their 40s. There might be other interventions, e.g. intensive breast-feeding support programs, that would do more to reduce breast cancer risks.

Asking "does the program potentially have benefits for some people?" gets us no where - the program would have to be pretty useless not to have potential benefits for some people.

The much more difficult, but much more important question is: "does this program have greater benefits than alternative interventions?"

Honestly, now that this post has been picked up by Arnold Kling and the Daily Beast, I'm wondering if - actually I'm not wondering, I know that - I'm just incredibly politically naive, and the real debate is about providing good quality universal public education, and some people are using this debate as an excuse *not* to do that.

I went through the gifted program, and while I absolutely loved it (in regular classes I was ostracized and isolated - Gifted allowed me to develop socially), I think I can see where results like this come from.

My instinct would be to blame the teachers, not the students. The majority of primary and secondary teachers have degrees in softer fields like English and History (particularly among the teachers with MA's, who are more likely to get assigned to teach the gifted kids). In contrast, because degrees in the sciences and math are in greater demand within the private sector, relatively few teachers have such backgrounds (there may be a gender story there as well, men are more likely to hold the latter type of degree, and rather unlikely to become teachers).

What I am suggesting is that the ability of the education system to nurture above average language skills is greater than its ability to nurture above-average math skills. As far as I know, the homeroom model prevails prior to high school. So gifted kids tend to be taught by English majors struggling to administer the gifted math curriculum. The general curriculum is simpler, but I'll wager that it is better taught because it is closer to the core competences of those that teach it.

My own experiences with gifted are a natural experiment that inform this argument somewhat. I started gifted in grade 5, and was taught by a hippie art teacher who essentially avoided teaching math. While future teachers were somewhat better, we were probably behind the general cohort, due to having done very little math in grades 5 and 6. When I went on to high school that gap remained - people that joined the Gifted program in high school were generally better at math than those who had been in the Gifted program (and I don't think this had much to do with innate abilities - we actually did better in tests like the Pascal or the Cayley). Moreover, people like to be special. In Gifted I think there was a tendency for people to develop the skills they were already relatively better at (perhaps experiencing diminishing returns), in order to stand out. Being at the bottom of the class in Gifted math may have pushed some students (myself included) to focus more attention to subjects like English and history.

Secondly, and this should be a rather obvious point, but we pick up language skills from our surroundings much more than we do math skills. People do not usually discuss math, but rather learn it in private. In that sense, language skills may be a positive externality of Gifted classes.

Although I was the one contributing to public good production, rather than one of the people benefiting from it, I wouldn't give up my Gifted experiences for the world. Gifted was a nerd paradise, that enabled me to socialize in ways that I couldn't otherwise (dungeons and dragons really was the first place in which I was able to come out of my shell), and to take on leadership roles that would otherwise have been barred to me (because we had very high internal social cohesion, we played a leading role in organizing events and forming clubs within the school).

"that in NY, girls are more likely to be identified as gifted than boys. As you say, that is less likely to happen with admission based on IQ testing, but then there's all of these other issues with IQ tests, e.g. issue of racial bias etc. There's a strange paradox here - two comments up Mary is making sarcastic comments about the usefulness of test scores, while at the same time the whole premise of gifted programs is that ability can be identified using test scores!"

Test scores are not the only way Gifted students are identified. In the TDSB (at least in the early 90s) teacher recommendation was more common than test scores. Although I was admitted on the basis of a standardized test (my pre-Gifted homeroom teacher had me sit at the "stupid" table*, and recommended against my admission), a number of my peers were not. This is (as most of my earlier comment was) entirely anecdotal, but I think the transition to standardized tests did have an impact on the makeup of the Gifted program (namely with more Asians and boys, fewer white students and girls).

*Did other people have this experience - of primary students sitting at tables that roughly corresponded to their perceived academic ability?

hosertohoosier: *Did other people have this experience - of primary students sitting at tables that roughly corresponded to their perceived academic ability?

One of my elementary school teachers even gave the groups animal names - I think the slowest table was called the donkeys. It might have been snails. But there was no doubt who was who!

"In the TDSB (at least in the early 90s) teacher recommendation was more common than test scores." though this contradicts Tom West "The most common practice in Ontario school boards is to identify a student as gifted if they are assessed at above the 98th percentile for FSIQ (some use GAI) on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV (WISC-IV) – testing administered by a psychologist."

Frances, I have noticed your views on education are dramatically shaped by your situation in Ottawa. Ottawa isn't typical of Ontario.

I also think your views on educational competition are looking for a result where there isn't one. In my town we had five public high schools, two Catholic ones and zero appreciable difference between them other than the fact that the public one was closer for most students.

My school experience in a small urban centre in Central Ontario was quite different. We had no separate "gifted" classes. I had a "gifted" identification elementary school, it got me access to a few special activities in lieu of general ones, mostly so I wouldn't be so much of a pain in regular classes. Really, it didn't amount to much at all and didn't do me any good.

Prior to funding reform Toronto and Ottawa were the only board who weren't dependent on provincial funding allowances, local property taxes were enough and they could do what they wanted. Other boards were more restricted in what they could offer.

My son tested gifted in San Francisco and it was important in getting him out of rote education and into challenging education. That plus honors plus advanced placement got him ready for Carnegie Mellon. I really dislike this trashing of 'middle class parents'. Here in the States it can be HARD to get a good education in the public schools. Parents fighting the school system to get their kids a good education is a necessary and useful part of the provision of quality public education. The alternative is private for more than 20K / year. My son raised the bar in every class he was in - he contributed to the public school environment - and if he had been stuck in less academic - less gifted - classes he would not have been able to do that.

I had to go battle the school system to get him into appropriate schools and classes at least four times. I used his qualification as gifted every time.

I have to concur with hosertohoosier on a lot of his/her points.

One further thing - I am wary of adults identifying kids who are gifted as also socially adapted. This is from an adults perspective, where gifted students probably relate better. I know that in a regular public school stream, my life was hell. It was much better in a full time gifted program, where I was with other socially awkward nerds. But, we probably seemed pretty ok to adults because we were articulate and confident when given the opportunity to stretch ourselves - which is not something that helps in the schoolyard.

One comment I would make is that, to the extent gifted programs are helpful to achievement, could one not make an argument that there are returns to society, that benefit everyone in the end? I would make that argument about all sorts of social/academic programs that don't directly benefit me, but that I don't have any problem with supporting.

Finally, to Frances, I don't understand why attacking the benefits accorded those in the gifted programs helps solve the (real) problems you identify with a school system that has bad teachers and inadequate educational programs. The solution isn't to punish the groups who can escape that, but to deal with that problem.

Whitfit - yes, well, given the enthusiasm of the National Review and similar for this post I do wonder if perhaps I put the case a little too strongly.


Read lark's post above. Some parents are willing to fight for an excellent education for their children. If you take those parents/their children out of the mainstream classroom, then there is less pressure on schools to fix inadequate programs.

Not every gifted program is a safe sanctuary for nerdy kids - division 81 at _______ Secondary wasn't.

Gifted programs cannot be justified by saying "these programs have benefits." To justify these programs, it is necessary to show that they provide *greater* benefits than other uses of funds.

Actually, the most damning critique of my argument so far has been right up the beginning - something along the lines of "if schools were delivering programs optimally, wouldn't you expect to see a continuous relationship between ability and achievement?"

lark: I'm happy for you that your son is successful. I hope he is happy.

I think you might be confusing cause and effect. Was your son successful because of the gifted programs, or was it his innate ability and your dedication as a parent? What if you were poorer and lived in an area where the the school offered no gifted programs? I suspect you and he would have found a way regardless.


You're right that the data seem to indicate that funds are not allocated optimally, but that doesn't provide support for any particular reform. Or am I wrong?


It is true that there is a discontinuity, but I think an earlier poster had it right when mentioning that the appropriate comparison is a control group, and it would be interesting to see what other kinks develop in different methods of dividing and teaching students.

And I agree with you that there needs to be more evidence based approaches to allocating resources and designing education programs.

Your other point, about separating the children of the most engaged parents is an interesting one. However, this cuts both ways - might some of those parents not take their kids right out of the public system, making it even easier to underfund and kick around? Look at NYC public schools. Maybe that argument requires also that there is no parallel private system, like health care is done in Canada. Without outlawing private schools, and eliminating the programs that relatively more privileged kids take advantage of (though I would also note that from my experience in these programs, many of the kids that I was in school with were from working class immigrant families) what you might end up with is privileged kids going to an increasing number of private schools, and less privileged kids being stuck in a public system that is dysfunctional, like in NYC or other US cities where they have a hard time keeping public schools appropriately funded. I would also point out that in many of these programs, it is not a different set of resources - it is the same science teacher, math teacher etc... teaching the gifted class, just with a segregated class. Maybe there are some teachers who thrive on that variety? Maybe they do a better job overall because they have an opportunity to experience a variety of groups? It seems to me that the special programs are an easy target in a complex school system.

Maybe there is no evidence for gifted or enrichment programs, but I also think that evidence based policy (of the kind that is scientific and self critical and is not just about justifying preconceived notions) is so far from the minds of politicians, the public, and school administrators that, although I would welcome it, I would caution against using one piece of evidence - the discontinuity in achievement in one specific instance - to justify a reform that it is unclear is needed or an improvement.

I wonder why we never see articles asking if varsity sports programs are a waste of money? After all, they are just as elitist and exclusionary since they only cater to the elite athletes and leave everyone else in the dust.

For those of you who think that it does no harm to advanced/precocious/gifted/whatever-you-call-them-so-as-not-to-hurt-your-own-feelings children to place them in a regular class, I can tell that you've never met a *truly* gifted child. You might know some bright children and you might even know some children who are a little advanced for their grade, but you don't know a child who is completing work 3-6 grade levels above their classmates. For a child at 6 who can perform computations with whole numbers, with negative numbers (and for that matter even understand the concept of negative numbers), with fractions and with decimals- do you honestly think it's ok for that child to be subjected to nothing more than 2+4=6 for days on end? For that same child to be subjected to Dick and Jane type readers when they've already read Harry Potter level books? When they've already questioned the existence of a god (at age 5) or Santa Claus (at age 4)? Mindnumbing boredom, so much so that the child at 5 hated school with a passion and felt lonely and said repeatedly that he didn't fit in? Really? In most other circumstances such treatment would be considered abusive, but in the school system it's the norm.

Why do we ask our academically gifted children to sit and wait (and even tutor their peers) while we provide every opportunity for our gifted athletes to advance and learn and train more? Are we humans really that threatened by the smart people among us that we would rather them have miserable childhoods and learn to hate school in order to keep ourselves from feeling inadequate? Do we really hate intellectuals so much? From too many of the posts on this site, it certainly sounds so. Disappointing- I really hoped the rest of the world was different in this regard, and I am slowly learning that y'all are not.

Alice wrote:
In Calgary the GATE (gifted and talented program) is overwhelmingly dominated by boys. In my daughter's class of 18 there are 3 girls. That suggests to me that this isn't just about a middle class privilege protection, at least here.

That's strange -- I went through the GATE program a decade ago and I recall a pretty decent mix of boys and girls. That being said, most of my peers were from upper-middle class or professional families, and I wasn't, so I sure got some schooling about class values while I was there.

People who label gifted individuals as nerds are naive.

Giftedness in its true sense should be regarded as a disability or an individual with special needs. They may be advanced intellectually, but in other aspects such as social skills, or even in the psychological aspect - they may find themselves behind in their development.

Starting the gifted program at grade 4 in the public school system is often too late. The child has already lost interest in the school system. In an accepting environment, with fellow gifted childen - where a gifted child's talents are identified early on and further developed - these individuals are true performers - in math, literature, the arts, in sports, in science etc.

An interesting study would be to see if the gap does exist between gifted kids who have been identified in earlier years (4-8 yrs old) and then addressed, vs gifted children who waited until 4th grade (9 yrs old) to be assessed and catered to.

It is not always "a gift" to be "gifted.

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